It’s awesome to be frugal by choice, but sometimes, you’re forced to live frugally and on a really tight budget out of necessity and it sucks, hard. When you’re living frugally to work on something fun- like cutting costs in order to save up for a vacation or pay for a home, it can be a fun challenge.
Other times, living frugally is not a fun challenge- it just really sucks. Whether cutting back just feels painful, or you’re making sacrifices to pay for something completely unfun like student loans, there is a real fear that everyone in the whole wide world is having fun without you.
Yep, FOMO, the fear of missing out is a real thing- especially when you’re living frugally. Did everyone start going out to awesome cocktail bars all of a sudden? How is everyone else buying new clothes and you’re not able to afford it? Is nobody else freaking out about the cost of being a bridesmaid and attending the bachelorette party?
When you are living frugally, it feels as if the whole world is having fun without you, and the only vacation you can afford is a weekend stay in Bummersville with a bologna sandwich and a box of wine. Fun times!
Being frugal at times can be a total drag, but it doesn’t have to be. I’ve been there and back again, so I have some advice if you’re struggling:
Maybe you’re here, living frugally because you’ve been in credit card debt. It doesn’t matter how much you make, or how much you’ve spent, you may have found that going into debt was more heartache than it was worth and you’re ready to get out of the trap. You may have just gotten really real about your income and what you can afford, and that’s a bummer to realize how sometimes (not) far your money can take you.
You are going to see people in bars drinking expensive cocktails and ladies in the latest fashions. It’s going to suck- but you don’t know how they’re paying for it. Chances are, they haven’t gotten as real as you have, and they’re in the debt trap. Money doesn’t grow on trees, and unless they have a rich sugar daddy (which they probably don’t), it’s a mirage being upheld by plastic. They may be blissfully unaware of their choices, or, they may be struggling harder and harder to use “new stuff” to cover up how trapped they feel.
If you’re wondering how someone you know who is making about what you make, or has a similar lifestyle- is able to afford it and you’re not, chances are, they, like so many others, are leaning on credit cards to hold up the facade. Yes, it makes you want to participate, but if you’re ready to get out of the debt trap, remember, money doesn’t appear magically, they may just be funding their lifestyles on plastic.
If you’re saving up for a car and have to live lean now, focus on that feeling of driving your new car off the lot. Honestly, it may feel stupid to print out pictures of the goal, but it really helps. A vision board may feel sort of dorky, but it can be tremendously helpful.
Clipping images that inspire you and relate to how you want to feel not just what you want to pay for, can help keep you motivated. One of my favorite vision boards included inspirational figures I wanted to emulate, personal and professional goals, as well as the bold, bodacious number I wanted to pay off and save up. If I had company over, I’d put it away- but otherwise, it hung up by my computer desk so I could remind myself of the why.
Additionally, what are you going to do to celebrate when you reach your goal? Paying off student loan debts isn’t as sexy as saving for a Caribbean vacation, but won’t it feel amazing to have your loan finally tackled? You may not be able to sip a piña colada on the beach when you hit your goal, but can you plan a party or a way to treat yo’self? Maybe a piña colada party locally with some good friends? Life isn’t meant merely to be lived, it must be celebrated! It doesn’t matter if your goal is sexy or not.
One of the most painful parts of FOMO when you’re living frugally is when you have to flat out turn people down for their fun requests. Invitations that used to be delightful are suddenly dreadful, and you often feel the strain of having to turn people down cold turkey, which is totally deflating and depressing.
If you feel that everyone is going to be having fun without you, you’re also dealing with both the fear, the guilt and a serious case of the sads..life is not fun…but it can be! You do not have to write fun times of completely, but you have to communicate effectively, and clearly what you’re going through. If a friend is far less worried about budgets than you are, let him or her know you’re totally psyched to be asked to participate, but is there a way to make it work? It helps to be upfront and not wishy washy- people aren’t mind readers and usually, if you start blowing people off without being honest, they take it personally and usually have no idea that you’re stressing over money.
It’s hard to be honest upfront, but it truly helps. After you’re honest, can you negotiate to make it work for everyone? Chances are, when friends and family pressure us to participate, they simply have different budgets than we do and don’t realize how stressed we are when dealing with a tight budget and the burden of making it all work without being a total fuddy duddy who can’t afford to hang out. My recommendation is, if someone asks you to come to cocktail hour or join their bridal party- it’s good for your relationships, and for the success of your strained budget, that you compromise and find creative ways to make it work without blowing off fun completely. It’s not fun to be honest, but worse is the feeling of alienation and loneliness by walling yourself off because everything costs money.
Make it work when you can- your relationships are important, and so is your financial and emotional health. To make it work, sometimes we must get creative…we can’t afford everything, but we can afford what we put our minds to!
Pain is temporary, victory is forever. Frugal living can be like training for a marathon- the training can be really painful, and you’ll want to give up many, many times- but the payoff is yours forever. At times, when I had to live on a really strict budget to keep my debts down, and later, pay off my student loans, it really sucked. It can feel deflating when you can’t just buy things when you want them, or you see everyone’s Cancun vacation on Facebook. I can tell you though, that years later, when I paid off my loans, it felt AWESOME. Again, one more time, it was AWESOME.
I can’t speak for the folks I saw on Facebook during that time, taking vacations on Facebook, but if they were blowing through their money then, chances are, they’re still in debt now…and I’m free. I can tell you, being debt free, or paying for a big goal in cash is awesome- you’ll be in good company when you live within your means and have a big goal crossed off your list. No matter what life handed to you, you can overcome. The pain is temporary, but the future is yours for the taking.
The pain you feel now, is only temporary. There may be some fun times you miss out on now, but there will be more later. The beaches aren’t going anywhere, the fall fashions will still be just as tempting, and Sephora will still be there when you’ve hit your goal and you can indulge without worry. It will be there, waiting for you, there is more fun to be had!